Nearly 2,000 Doncaster schoolchildren packed the Dome for a festival of books – complete with two of the biggest names in children’s literature.
Youngsters from dozens of primary and secondary schools gathered at the Bawtry Road venue for one of the biggest events in the borough’s schools calendar – the launch of the 2018-19 Doncaster Book Award.
This year saw the creator of the Mr Gum books, Andy Stanton, and the illustrator of the Horrible Histories books, Martin Brown, take to the stage to entertain them before the longlist of titles for this years award was announced.
When the organisers held their grand finale day for the 2017-18 awards in March, the attendance was reduced because of a thick snowfall across Doncaster, which caused widespread disruption and many school closures
But yesterday’s launch saw the youngsters arrive in bright sunlight and bright spirits, for an event hosted by actors from the Tailgate Theatre Group, dressed in medieval costumes in homage to the Horrible Histories books.
Teacher Amanda Blackham brought a party of youngsters from Mexborough Academy.
She said: “We come to the events wherever possible, but we missed the finale in March because of the snow.
“All our pupils were very excited – this is great for promoting reading. Coming here has been a great reward for some of our pupils. They were really excited about the authors.
Teacher Nikki Jones had brought pupils from Saltergate Junior School, in Scawsby. She said the book awards was an annual event for her pupils.
“We love it,” she said. “We’ve started to read the books on the primary schools longlist already.
“The children had been so excited about meeting the authors. We’ve got some of their books in the library.”
Amy Fox, mum of 10-year-old Hatchell Wood Primary School pupil Oliver Fox, attended the awards as part of a degree project she is doing at Doncaster College.
Oliver attended with school.
Amy said:”I think this is a fantastic event for Doncaster and it’s really inclusive. Its great that they’ve been able to get children involved like this, and meeting the authors. Oliver is reading Tom Gates books at the moment, and we’ve just invested in Horrible Histories books after today.”
During a stage performance of around 20 minutes, Mr Gum writer Andy told how he had been inspired to write Mr Gum to entertain some young relatives one Christmas, with his idea then running into a series of six books. He also read from his new book, Natboff, about a caveman.
He told the Free Press he was not planning more Mr Gum books at present, but plans for a musical based on the titles were in place.
He was impressed by the scale of the Doncaster awards launch.
“I’ve never seen an event like this,” he said. “We do talks and its great to have some face time and show kids where books come from. I think this is a huge event and it’s brilliant to see so many schools here.
“Hopefully a writer and an illustrator meant the teachers can sit down and relax for a bit.”
Martin told youngsters they did not have to be highly trained artists to enjoy painting, and brought pupils onto the stage to help him tell part of the horrible history of World War One, about the lice soldiers suffered from in the Trenches. His next Horrible Histories book will be to mark the end of World War One.
He said it was special for his to be able to speak to the pupils about drawing.
“This has been a wonderful venue,” he said.
“I’ve been illustrating horrible Histories for 25 years now,” he said. “I now get people in their mid 30s telling me they like the books when they were children.
“My favourites were a series of specials we did about countries – the horrible histories of France, USA, and Britain, in separate books.”
Andy Cope, author of Diary of a Brilliant Kid, jioned the pupils for the afternoon session.
Doncaster Book Awards chairnan Lesley Hurworth said: “A fantastic time was had by all and we look forward to this year's award being even bigger and better than ever!”
The award contenders
The Doncaster children’s book awards was originally run in 2004.
From the original 13 schools it has grown to over seventy local schools taking part. The list is based on the books in the previous year that were most borrowed from the local libraries.
The longlist for the awards this year is:
Children of Orisha: Children of Blood and Bone, Tomi Adeyemi; The House with Chicken Legs, Sophie Anderson; The Weight of a Thousand Feathers, Brian Conaghan (over 13s only); Eve of Man, Giovanna and Tom Fletcher (over 13s only); A Skinful of Shadows, Frances Hardinge; Splash, Charli Howard; Things a Bright Girl Can Do, Sally Nicholls (over 13s only); Riddle of the Runes, Janina Ramirez; The 1000-Year-Old Boy, Ross Welford; Lady Mary, Lucy Worsley
The Polar Bear Explorers' Club, Alex Bell; Love from Lexie, Cathy Cassidy; Spy Dog: Gunpowder Plot, Andrew Cope; The Wizards of Once, Cressida Cowell; A Place Called Perfect, Helena Duggan; The Children of Castle Rock, Natasha Farrant; The Island at the End of Everything, Kiran Millward Hargrave; Kid Normal, Greg James and Chris Smith; Toto the Ninja Cat and the Great Snake Escape, Dermot O'Leary; Natboff, Andy Stanton.
Non-fiction and information titles.
Diary of a Brilliant Kid: Top Secret Guide to Awesomeness, Andy Cope, Gavin Oattes & Will Hussey; Horrible Histories, Terry Deary; How to Write Your Best Story Ever, Christopher Edge; Star Wars Maker Lab, Liz Lee Heinecke and Cole Horton; The Beetle Collector's Handbook, M G Leonard; Curiosity: The Story of a Mars Rover, Markus Motum; Suffragette: The Battle for Equality, David Roberts.